Twelfth Annual Postdoc Exhibition








#1. Dr. Holly Harris, Center for Childhood Obesity Research

Eating your feelings: Understanding how parents influence children's development of emotional overeating in an obesity-prevention program

Eating tasty food improves our mood. But habitually eating high-calorie snacks and candy to curb anxiety, sadness or boredom may lead to unhealthy relationships with food, poor coping skills and obesity. Emotional overeating develops in childhood, although ‘how’ is unknown. My research shows that parents may unintentionally teach children to emotionally overeat by soothing their child’s distress with food. In an intervention study, parents who learned alternative strategies to using food to soothe rated their child lower in emotional eating as they grew up. Emotional overeating may be prevented by supporting parents’ appropriate responses to child distress.

#2. Dr. Michael Gorka, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Using Sugar to Mimic Temperatures Approaching Absolute Zero

Trehalose is a small sugar with rather unique properties. It is ubiquitous in nature and has the rare ability to form a glass at room temperature. We have found a way to embed an essential photosynthetic protein in this glass, keeping it functional for years. Not only does this open the door for long-lived biological-based devices, but we also discovered something unexpected. Namely, that we can mimic the effects of a protein at temperatures approaching absolute zero while remaining at room temperature. This may finally allow us to separate the effects of temperature from protein motion for the first time.



#1. Dr. Xiaomeng Shi, Agricultural and Biological Engineering


Deeper rooting maize varieties can sequester more atmospheric carbon back into soil, which will benefit the environment and agricultural productivity. To accelerate the research on identifying genes controlling deeper rooting, we developed a highly automated field-based platform for maize root system architecture phenotyping, the RootRobot.

#2. Dr. Chloe Drummond, Entomology

The mystery behind sundew carnivory: how does it dew that?

Sundews are carnivorous plants that are found worldwide, even here in Pennsylvania. I am figuring out what genes sundews use to break down and digest insect prey. Knowing how carnivory evolved broadens our understanding of how genes, and perhaps different copies of the same genes, are used for new purposes.

#3. Dr. Samuel Martins, Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology

Comparing bacterial communities of healthy and diseased mushroom (Agaricus bisporus)

The goal of this research was to compare the bacterial community of mushrooms with and without blotch disease. This information will facilitate the isolation of safe and eco-friendly bacteria associated with healthy mushrooms, which can be used as biological control agents against blotch, reducing food waste and pesticide use.

#4. Dr. Anuradha Gupta, Institute of Gravitation and the Cosmos

Listening to the symphony of the Universe

Our Universe is nothing but a 'rigid' fabric of space-time. It takes big explosions such as collision of two black-holes to distort this space-time, and whenever it happens, cosmic ripples are produced in the form of gravitational-waves.  These waves sing to us to tell all the secrets of the Universe.

#5. Dr. Kutubuddin Molla, Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology

Rewriting Letters in DNA to Cure Plant and Human Diseases

Altered single DNA letters cause many human and plant genetic diseases. Correcting these could cure many diseases but has been incredibly difficult. A new tool, base-editors, can rewrite one DNA letter into another. We have rewritten single letters in rice DNA for modifying characteristics. Base-editors could revolutionize crop-breeding and disease-therapeutics



Larkin Hood, Ph.D. is a Research Assistant and Instructional Consultant for Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence. She earned her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Washington. Prior to coming to Penn State she served as outreach coordinator for Burke Museum for Natural History and Culture. At Penn State she is interested in working with faculty in the natural and social sciences to articulate what they want their students to learn, how to teach it effectively, and systematically collect direct evidence that students have learned it. In this role she consults with faculty on a variety of teaching and learning topics, she works with graduate students on their professional development as teachers, she conducts    educational research, and she creates teaching resources for faculty.

Melissa Long, MSc., earned her degree in Cell and Developmental Biology at Penn State. She currently serves as the Technology Licensing Officer with the Office of Technology Management. In this role, Melissa works with Penn State inventors to protect and promote the successful commercialization of Life Science technologies.

Justin Snyder, Ph.D.  earned his PhD in Sociology from the University of Virginia. Prior to coming to Penn State he was an Assistant Professor at St. Francis University where he studied emotional trauma and traumatic memory of combat in military veterans. At Penn State he serves as Quality Management Coordinator in the Office of Research Protections. In this role, he provides central support for investigators conducting clinical trials outside the College of Medicine, helps investigators comply with federal regulations and award requirements, and audits and monitors human subjects research.



Dr. Samar Al Maalouf is a Scientist and Study Manager at INDIGO Biosciences. She is responsible for the development of cell-based assays that can predict liver toxicity, a major reason for drug withdrawal from pharmaceutical development and clinical use. She also manages the design and lab execution of drug-screening studies for clients in the pharmaceutical industry, governmental agencies and academic institutions. Prior to INDIGO Samar had more than 15-year experience as a cell and molecular biologist. After a Ph.D. in Animal Sciences from the Ohio State University, she pursued a postdoc at Columbia University followed by postdoc training at Penn State, investigating the role of non-coding RNA in tissue growth and function using the bovine ovaries as a model. Samar enjoys hiking and various outdoors activities, as well as reading and theatre.

Dr. Jameela Conway-Turner is a Researcher at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). Dr. Conway-Turner provides research and evaluation support to research practitioner partnerships and programs related to youth development, with a focus on positive youth development and social and emotional learning This work includes K-12 education and out-of-school time. She is currently a researcher for the Midwest Achievement Gap Research Alliance, a collaborative research partnership for REL Midwest, translation task lead on the Schools Out New York City (SONYC) project, and the site liaison and analyst for the Safe Babies Court Team Evaluation. Prior to joining AIR, Dr. Conway-Turner was a policy fellow for the Society for Research in Child Development at the National Institute of Justice working on the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative. She holds a Ph.D. in Applied Developmental Psychology from George Mason University.

Dr. Nick Smith is a Research Associate in the Thin Films and Surfaces Research directorate within Corning Incorporated, bringing to the role interdisciplinary expertise in the fields of glass surface science, chemical durability, electric-field effects in glass, and surface characterization.  Since joining Corning in 2011, research responsibilities have included innovations in glass surface technology for Corning Glass Technologies businesses, as well as advances in cover glass and thin glass products.  He holds a Ph.D. and a B.S. in Material Science & Engineering from Penn State University, and also previously worked at American Glass Research near Pittsburgh, PA, providing consulting and training services to the glass container industry.  Nick has authored or co-authored 32 peer-reviewed scientific publications, >120 technical reports, 14 patent applications, and 5 granted patents.

Dr. Elizabeth Stulberg is a Science Policy Manager at the Alliance of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Science Societies (ACSESS), which represents three scientific societies, the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America. Dr. Stulberg specializes in food systems policy with particular interest in microbiomes and microbiology, agriculture education, diversity and inclusion, and the public perception of agriculture. Prior to joining ACSESS, Elizabeth worked as an Agriculture Science Fellow in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Chief Scientist, and in White House Office of Science and Technology Policy as the Senior Advisor for Food and Life Sciences. She began her science policy career through an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science & Technology Policy Congressional Fellowship sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology. Elizabeth received her Ph.D. from Yale University in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. 



The Penn State Postdoc Society is pleased to announce Dr. Molly Hanlon as the recipient of the 2019 Outstanding Postdoc Award.  Dr. Hanlon was nominated by Drs. Jonathan Lynch, Kathleen Brown, Erin Connolly, and Teh-hui Kao.  She is a postdoc in the Department of Plant Science. In the words of her nominators “Molly is a truly exceptional young scientist, conducting novel research with vigor and creativity, managing a highly complex and multidisciplinary research project, and mentoring young scientists, all while maintaining very active outreach.”

T​he Penn State Postdoc Society is pleased to announce Dr. Klaus Keller as the recipient of the 2019 Outstanding Postdoc Mentor Award. Dr. Keller is a Professor in the Department of Geosciences and the Director for the Center for Climate Risk Management.   He was nominated by a current postdoc in his lab, Dr. Mahkameh Zarekarizi. Dr. Keller’s dedication to helping his postdoctoral mentees through professional development and teaching opportunities, maintaining consistent and open communication, providing constructive feedback, and providing opportunities to attend scientific meetings led to his selection as the recipient of the 2019 Outstanding Postdoc Mentor.


2019 Exhibition Planning Committee 

Sarah Craig (Talks), Lydia Hardie (PSPS Chair) , Mary Kathleen Pitrri ( posters and judges), Saroj Sah( posters and judging), Hannah Schneider( PSPS Awards), Yolanda Murphy( Panel Discussion) and Pallavi Eswara